Daniel Ament breathes through a new pair of lungs these days — after vaping destroyed his old ones.
As a result of a link between vaping and respiratory health risks, he became the first person to receive a lung transplant.
The surgery succeeded thanks to the skilled work of surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital, who made history with the procedure. Once on death’s door from as his lungs failed, Ament has received a second chance at life.
Dangers of Vaping Too Hard to Ignore
This almost-tragic story is just one of many that highlight the growing outcry against vaping. As of February 2020, over 2800 people in the United States have been hospitalized due to vaping, prompting government leaders and citizens to take action.
In a recent open forum on the issue at Royal Oak High School (ROHS) in Detroit, high school students, principals, and local doctors gathered to spread awareness about the issue.
Henry Ford Hospital sent Dr. Lisa Allenspach, the medical director of the hospital’s lung transplant program, a representative from the hospital’s tobacco treatment services, and one from a local addiction treatment facility.
“The bottom line is we don’t know,” answered Dr. Allenspach when asked what is causing the lung injuries.
She reported that researchers for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Health investigated the cause, but nothing has been confirmed yet. There are several chemicals in vape that could be to blame.
“While the chemical compound Vitamin E acetate has been linked to lungs damaged by vaping, correlation does not equal causation, and there are other causes currently being studied,” she added.
Nearly One-Third Of U.S. High Schoolers Vape
Teenagers and children are especially at risk of vape-related dangers. According to the American Lung Association, over 5,7000 children start using vape products each day.
One study cited by Allenspach revealed the following:
- 28% of high school students use e-cigarettes
- 11% of middle schoolers vape
- 3 Michigan residents have died as a result of vaping-related lung disease
- Thousands more have been hospitalized all across the country
Medical professionals note that some cases involve patients who have only vaped a few times, so the risk is not necessarily tied to how much someone vapes.
ROHS student Thomas Gardella said he sees many fellow students vaping at school.
“If someone wanted to get one [e-cigarette], they could pretty easily, whether it’s going to a store that sells to minors or getting someone [of age] to buy legally and resell them,” he said.
Vape Lung Transplant Leaves Lasting Marks
“These products were initially manufactured, and at least targeted, to the medical community as a way to stop smoking,” said Allenspach. “And it’s actually now shown to be just the opposite, especially with youth, where it’s actually the segue into cigarettes.”
And if any student can communicate that danger, it’s Daniel Ament. He now bears a scar that crosses his chest from one side to the other.
“There have been a lot of people who say they have quit because of me, and like a lot of my friends actually have, so that’s what makes it hopeful for the future for me [… ] that I can save people from it,” he said.
Ament, a former athlete, once planned to become a Navy SEAL. That’s before vaping resulted in his lungs completely failing, requiring a 40-day stay in the hospital and the surgery needed to save his life.
Since his surgery, Ament had to learn to breathe again. Now his plans include starting a non-profit to educate students on the health risks of vaping.
Schools Taking Steps to Stop Vaping
ROHS principal Michael Giromini says there’s a balance between enforcement and education regarding vaping.
“We don’t want to run a police state,” he said. “It’s important for [students] to feel safe, supported, and welcome, and not every single kid is vaping.”
Giromini also said schools are attempting to focus more on the mental health aspects by adding social workers to help students with positive coping skills to manage depression and anxiety.
“I think students engaging in any kind of substance abuse are often trying to self-medicate,” he said. They’re experiencing something that they don’t have the coping skills for.”